Feature – TIME Europe magazine

From the May 1st TIME Europe:

An adult in one hand, a book to be signed in the other, the children troop into the theater to ask questions of a highly important nature. Their target is the writer Neil Gaiman, whose fantasy book for kids The Wolves in the Walls has just been made into a musical that opened in Glasgow last month and transferred to London’s Lyric Theatre for two weeks before going on tour in Scotland next month and England this fall. Gaiman explains to his young fans that the book was inspired by a nightmarish fantasy his daughter Maddy once had. The children are rigorous cross-examiners. “But from where exactly in her bedroom did the wolves appear?” a skeptical 8-year-old girl wants to know. Gaiman answers with not a moment’s hesitation: “A foot above her head and a little to the left.”

As the famed creator of entire comic-book universes, Gaiman knows the importance of detail – and it is his ability to commute between them and the real world that has expanded his fan base far beyond the fantasy-fiction clichés of teen goths and pimply geeks. Whether through film adaptations of his best-selling fiction, graphic novels, children’s books or screenplays, Gaiman is a hot commodity these days. Today he’s in London for just 24 hours to check on the progress of Wolves and visit the set of Stardust, the film version of his 1997 romantic fairy fantasy, which director-producer Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) is shooting with an all-star cast that stretches from Sienna Miller to Ricky Gervais. Because Vaughn was deep in screen tests, he and Gaiman only got to wave to each other across the set before the author had to leave. “In any kind of sane universe,” Gaiman says, “I would be hanging around on the set saying, ‘This is mine, this is cool.'”

Instead, in the morning, the British-born Gaiman will climb on a plane – where he’ll finish writing an article on Superman – for the Addams Family–style house near Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he has lived since 1992. There he will knuckle down to his screen adaptation of Charles Burns’ teen-horror, graphic-novel series Black Hole. Then, Gaiman must deliver the first of six issues of The Eternals, a resurrected Marvel Comics creation from the ’70s. Oh, and he also needs to finish a book of short stories, as well as The Graveyard Book, a tale of an orphan child being raised by dead people. In his spare time, he may swing by Los Angeles to see how Roger Zemeckis’ animated version of Beowulf, for which Gaiman rewrote the oldest epic in the English language, is coming along.

Isn’t that too much to juggle?

Gaiman, jet-lagged but engaged, rocks one hand from side to side in answer. “I’m pushing it,” he admits. “Right now is the first time I’ve ever looked around and thought, ‘That’s not sane.'”

Indeed, Gaiman’s name has become such a seal of approval that he’s just realizing he won’t be able to accept all the projects he’s offered. It wasn’t always that way. Although The Sandman, Gaiman’s 1989-96 series of comic books about a family of flawed immortals, has sold more than 7 million copies, the mainstream media tended to be sniffy. Not that it bothered Gaiman: “Comics are a medium that gets mistaken for a genre, where I could do horror or detective stories, spy fiction or anything I wanted and nobody noticed that I was not staying in my box.”

As imaginative fiction went big time in the late ’90s, it became clear that Gaiman had long since left any box. His credentials as a bankable novelist grew with each title from Stardust (1998), through his epic of warring divinities American Gods (2001), to last October’s Anansi Boys, which debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times’ adult best-seller list. In 1996, Gaiman, with longtime friend and illustrator Dave McKean, wrote The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, his first children’s book. He had already begun work in 1992 on Coraline, a seriously spooky novella about a girl’s journeys into a parallel world where her parents have buttons for eyes, ghosts of dead children need help freeing their souls, and rats sing. But after looking at one chapter, Gaiman’s publisher deemed it unpublishable. “He told me there was no market for a book aimed at both children and adults, let alone a horror fantasy,” Gaiman recalls. Coraline was finally published in 2002, after Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events had squashed that theory. A $70 million animated film version by Henry Selick (James and the Giant Peach) is set to hit cinemas in 2007.

Gaiman’s first notable movie work was to rewrite the script of Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke for an American audience. That was widely applauded, though last year’s MirrorMask, which he wrote and McKean animated, was a stylish but failed experiment that could take years to recoup even its measly $4 million investment. For his own novels, Gaiman is happy to leave the screen adaptation to someone else. “It’s rather like having to barbecue your own baby,” he says. “I’m sure the author of Beowulf would be appalled by what I’ve done.” Nonetheless, for his first foray into theater, Gaiman did agree to rework Wolves in the Walls‘ 2,300 words himself, adding lyrics to what the National Theatre of Scotland is promoting as “a musical pandemonium” – a less daunting description than “a modern opera for families with young children.” But it’s still a daring debut for a flag-flying company that just launched itself without a theater or a permanent troupe to call its own. It’s already in talks to bring Wolves to the U.S. next spring.

Staged with London’s Improbable theater company and its director/designer Julian Crouch, whose junk opera Shockheaded Peter was a transatlantic smash last year, Wolves springs thrillingly to life onstage, lifting McKean’s scribbled and cut-and-paste illustrations straight off the page and onto the set. The music by Nick Powell gives fun – occasionally funky – support and the whole production rests confidently on Gaiman’s slim but compelling story: A little girl named Lucy, her jam-making mother, tuba-playing father and computer-obsessed brother all must face the consequences when Lucy’s dreaded wolves pour out of the walls and take over the house. The fact that they turn out to be not creatures of the dark but rather hooligan wolves who break things and get jam and popcorn everywhere makes for plenty of slapstick fun. But it’s also a poignant fable about dealing with fears of the unknown – a place about which children and their parents will always have questions and Gaiman is never at a loss for an answer.
–Michael Brunton


Interview – Guardian

From the April 1st Guardian:

Neil Gaiman was born in Hampshire in 1960. He was a journalist before becoming a graphic novelist, and his breakthrough came with The Sandman, a hugely successful cartoon strip. In 2001, he produced the bestselling adult novel American Gods. He recently published a new adult novel, Anansi Boys. His children’s book, The Wolves In The Walls, has been adapted for the stage and is on tour until May 20. He is married, has three children and lives in Minneapolis

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Reading under a tree on a summer’s day.

What is your greatest fear?

Something dreadful but unspecified happening to my children.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

I’m utterly disorganised and I wish I wasn’t.

What makes you depressed?

Not writing. I get moody and rood

y and irritable if I’m not making stuff up.

What has been your most embarrassing moment?

School – it was a long moment, but an embarrassing one.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Buying books I’ll never read, in the vague hope that if I’m stranded on a desert island I’ll have remembered to pack a trunk with unread books.

What is your most treasured possession?

My iPod – the idea of it, having all my music when I need it, rather than the rather battered object.

What is your favourite smell?

November evenings: frost and leaf-mould and woodsmoke. The smell of coming winter.

What is your favourite book?

A huge, leather-bound, 150-year-old accounts book, with 500 numbered pages, all blank. I keep promising myself I’ll write a story in it one day.

What is your fancy dress costume of choice?

Pirate.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Wasting time.

What is your greatest regret?

I wish I’d enjoyed the journey more, rather than worried about it.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?

Time. Ten-day weeks, six-week months, 20-month years. Things like that.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My children.

What keeps you awake at night?

Silence.
–Rosanna Greenstreet


Feature – Time Out

From the 5th April Time Out London:

When I started researching graphic novelist Neil Gaiman for this article, I felt as if I’d stumbled on a huge party to which I’d never been invited before. Certainly his name had lurked in the hinterland of my mind, but somehow I’d never found out quite how famous he was. I just hadn’t got into the right kind of books – though I’d dabbled in Terry Pratchett’s fantasy fiction at university, I hadn’t inhaled, and despite one boyfriend trying to interest me in graphic novels, I’d never gone all the way. Yet the prolific author spends as much of his life on top of the New York Times’ bestseller list as most people do in their kitchens, counts Norman Mailer and Stephen King among his fans, and has such actors as Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, and Robert De Niro working on films either scripted by him or inspired by his writing.

If Gaiman were in a children’s book, he would cut quite a sinister figure with his inky black wardrobe and mass of dark unkempt hair. From an adult perspective, by contrast, his look is often – aptly – compared to that of a rock-star. It is, however, the children’s book view of the world that brings me to his Soho-based hotel room to talk about the National Theatre of Scotland’s first production. The company – which has already established its rebellious nature by declaring it will have no building as a base – has collaborated with Improbable Theatre to turn Gaiman’s The Wolves in the Walls into a piece of theatre gloriously described as ‘a musical pandemonium’.

No kilts have been burnt in protest that the National Theatre of Scotland hasn’t kicked off with something more, well, obvious. Yet apart from the fact that wolves became extinct later in Scotland than England, there’s no striking reason why artistic director Vicky Featherstone should have turned to the work of the Minnesota-based, southern English-born Gaiman. A lot of it seems to have been instinct – ‘Both Vicky and Julian (Crouch of Improbable) had run into the novel independently through their children, and loved it,’ Gaiman relates. ‘We met in a hotel lobby on a wet Novembery day so we could talk about them adapting it, and I knew straight away that I absolutely trusted them.’

Gaiman asserts he has always enjoyed collaborating more than working alone. Throughout his career he has gone into creative partnership with armies of artists: not least in his most famous adult work, The Sandman– a mythically rich, literary reference-strewn comic series which has led Stephen King to describe him as ‘a pretty awesome head … a treasure house of story’. Yet the artist with whom he truly seems to have a rich alchemical pact is Dave McKean – whose illustrations in The Wolves in the Walls evoke a fantastical gothic nightmare world. ‘We’ve been working together for 20 years which is kind of scary,’ laughs Gaiman. ‘I love Dave because he always surprises me.’

Gaiman, you suspect, is a man who lives for surprise, revelling in the serendipitous absurdities thrown up by the creative process. He relates with delight the point in rehearsals when ‘Somebody said “What if the wolves all sounded like Tom Waits?” All of a sudden you’ve got five people singing like Tom Waits, and that’s not a feeling of pleasure that I’ll ever get from reading something I’ve written.’ Emphasising his antipathy to working alone, he claims that when he’s proofing galleys for his books, ‘Somewhere during that second galley read I’ll think “I never want to read this book again, I hate the author.” It’s like an architect could never look at the plans they’d drawn for a house for pleasure, but you could walk through the finished house and say “This is a beautiful place.”‘

If the ego’s there, Gaiman certainly conceals it well. He even attributes authorship of Wolves in the Walls to his daughter Maddy, who, aged four, had a nightmare where wolves took over their house. ‘The nearest I could ever come to that (as a child) was my conviction that there were tigers under the bathtub. It meant that I had to be out of the bath by the time the last of the water went down with a faint roaring noise.’

Addicted to Norse and Egyptian mythology from the age of seven, Gaiman seems never to have lost his preference for mythological fantasy over reality. When his work’s being made into film, however, he confesses to suffering a certain guilt that ‘something that took you five seconds to think up, can take 40 people several 17/18 hour days to make.’ Currently Matthew Vaughn’s directing a star-studded adaptation of his book Stardust, which includes a flying pirate ship. Gaiman reveals he finds it a much bigger deal seeing this ship built ‘than the idea that Robert De Niro’s going to be acting on it’.

Gaiman’s work is being adapted everywhere: currently Robert Zemeckis is directing a high-tech version of Beowulf, co-scripted by Gaiman, and starring Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie. Yet Gaiman’s equally excited by the blatantly low-tech version of The Wolves in the Walls. ‘The biggest difference between film and theatre is that the audience is doing the work – they’re building it all in their heads. It’s cooler.’ He reflects for a second, then concedes ‘I still don’t know how Julian’s going to get elephants on stage.’
–Rachel Halliburton


Stardust (Film) – News

From the 22nd April Aberdeen Press and Journal:

Hollywood came to the Highlands yesterday when several A-list stars were filming scenes for a new blockbuster movie.

Michelle Pfeiffer as well as several British stars, including Sienna Miller and Rupert Everett, are shooting the scenes for Stardust near Kinlochewe in Wester Ross.

But Robert De Niro, who was rumoured to be filming this week, will not be visiting the Highlands as all his scenes are to be studio-based.

A 200-strong team of camera crews, make-up artists, lighting experts and security men have set up temporary home in the Kinlochewe area and beyond, bringing an early business boost to local accommodation and eateries.

The
stars, who also includ
e Claire Danes and Charlie Cox, were filming at Coulin Estate, between Kinlochewe and Torridon yesterday, but security men stopped anyone getting anywhere near the celebs.

The cast are to be filming in the Kinlochewe Village Hall today before heading to Skye this afternoon.

Scenes are to be shot at the Quiraing, an unusual rock formation on the island which was the setting for a fight scene involving Sean Connery in the film, Highlander.

The celebrities are expected to leave the area next week but will return to the Highlands next month to shoot more outdoor scenes.

The £50million movie is being directed by Mathew Vaughn and is based on the critically-acclaimed 1997 novel by Neil Gaiman.

Vaughn fell in love with the area after attending Madonna and Guy Ritchie’s wedding at Dornoch Cathedral and nearby Skibo Castle in 2000.

Local businesses in the area say all the activity is great news for them.

The Hollywood cast are thought to be staying at Loch Torridon Country House Hotel, but a spokeswoman for the hotel said they did not wish to make any comment yesterday.

At Kinlochewe Hotel, where some of the crew were staying, a spokeswoman said: “So far it’s had a very positive impact. I think the film people are staying at most of the accommodation in the area.

“I think it will put Kinlochewe on the map. When you look at Hamish Macbeth which was filmed in Plockton and even Local Hero (Pennan and Morar), they still bring benefits to the areas where they were filmed. We hope when the film comes out, people will go and see it and then want to come and see where it was filmed.”

Craig Duffield, manager at the Ledgowan Lodge Hotel, Achnasheen, where members of the film crew are staying, said: “It’s very good for the area. To have any kind of film here is great and it brings good publicity.”
–Eilidh Davies


From the 21nd April Scottish Daily Record & Sunday Mail:

The Highlands are being turned into the Hollywood hills for Tinseltown’s latest blockbuster.

Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer are among a galaxy of A-list actors descending on a tiny, Highland village to star in fantasy flick Stardust.

British stars Sienna Miller and Rupert Everett also have leading roles in the film.

Actress Claire Danes arrived at Inverness Airport yesterday, while the rest of the stars were expected last night.

A 200-strong army of I camera crews, make-up artists, I lighting experts and security I men have set up camp in Wester Ross, ready for the shoot.

Other scenes are expected to be filmed on Skye in the coming weeks.

The pounds 50million movie, which is being directed by Matthew Vaughn, is based on the critically acclaimed 1997 novel by Neil Gaiman.

The Office creator Ricky Gervais is also understood to have a part.

Vaughn, whose credits include British thriller Layer Cake, said: “I am delighted to be able to work with such a stellar cast in bringing the magic of Stardust to the screen.”

Sean Barclay, a film location scout who worked on TV show Monarch Of The Glen, recommended the location to the director as the ideal spot for the Victorian romp.

Vaughn, 42, who fell in love with Scotland when he was Guy Ritchie’s best man at his Highland wedding to Madonna in December 2000, then made trips to the area to decide on exact locations.

Locals watched in amazement this week as their caravan park was transformed into the movie-maker’s very own home-from-home.

The marquees sprang up overnight and a fleet of more than 20 box vans and lorries carrying millions of pounds worth of filming equipment caused long tailbacks.

Shopkeepers, hoteliers and B&B owners are delighted their village was chosen for the fantasy tale.

Every available bed within 50 miles of the location has been reserved for the crew and the small number of restaurants in the area have been fully booked for the past two days.

B&B owner Mary McNee said business had been booming since the filmmakers arrived.

The 56-year-old said: “It’s always very quiet after the Easter break but this has been a real windfall for us.

“All the crew members are really polite and have been great with us. They must have a bottomless budget because the amount of money they are spending is astronomical.”

Set in the sleepy English village of Wall, Stardust tells the story of a young man, Tristan – played by Casanova star Charlie Cox – who is on a quest to win the heart of his beloved, Victoria, played by Miller.

Tristan’s adventure takes him into a fantasy world where he faces a witch, Lamia, played by Pfeiffer, and fearsome pirate Captain Shakespeare – De Niro.

Celia Stevenson, of Scottish Screen, said: “A lot of very hard work has gone into getting the film here.

“It will be absolutely marvellous for the industry. It will provide a real shot in the arm.”
–Lachlan Mackinnon and James Moncur


From the 21st April Daily Mail:

Billie Whitelaw, Peter O’Toole, Ricky Gervais, Henry Cavill (a recent Bond hopeful), Mark Strong, Jason Flemyng, Nathaniel Parker, Dexter Fletcher and Kate McGowan, who have joined Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Sienna Miller, Claire Danes and Charlie Cox in Matthew Vaughn’s fantasy adventure film Stardust, which is shooting in Scotland and at Pinewood studios. It is based on Neil Gaiman’s novel about (among other things) a young man, a 400-million-year-old star (of the planetary sort) in human form, a wicked witch, greedy royals, and a cross-dressing pirate.


Clippings

The March 16th / Spring 2006 print edition of Apex Science Fiction & Horror Digest and Cemetery Dance #54 (also print) both have new interviews with Neil.


Not sure we’ve linked to this interview in New Review done with Peter Murphy, but it is relatively recent, as is this Wired article/interview done with Adam Rogers, which gets the audience that showed up at the 92nd St Y wrong but may have the ‘future’ of comics correct.


Steve Rogerson posted the following to the Yahoo Group:

For those who weren’t at Eastercon in Glasgow and haven’t heard elsewhere, Orbital won the bid to host the 2008 Eastercon.

It will be held at the Radisson Edwardian Hotel at Heathrow from 21st to 24th March 2008.

Our author guests of honour will be:
Neil Gaiman
Tanith Lee
China Mieville
Charles Stross

and our fan guest of honour will be:
Rog Peyton

The membership rate for the full weekend is £35, but only if you book quickly. It rises to £45 on 1 June 2006 and then again on 14 April next year. You can book online on our web site:
http://www.orbital2008.org

and there is no extra charge for booking by credit card. Details of other membership rates are also on the web site. And if you are a bit nervous about booking this far in advance, we do offer a refund minus £5 if you cancel before the end of January 2008.


According to Publishers W
eekly
, The Neil Gaiman Reader, a collection of articles and essays on Neil’s work edited by Darrell Schweitzer will be featured at the Wildside Press booth at Book Expo America. More information on the book is available at Amazon.

Publishers Weekly also reported that Fantagraphics The Sandman Papers, a collection of criticism and essays about the series edited by Joe Sanders, debuted at Alternative Press Expo in early April.


The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that included in the Box Theater‘s 2006 schedule is Weird Tales, which includes theatrical adaptions of stories from Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman.


BBC News reports that UK users of Sony PSP can download an arts magazine called ICA – The Show which includes a Mirrormask featurette.


The current (April 2006) edition of Opera News features an interview with Stephin Merritt, who is working on a musical adaption of Coraline.